28 November 2013

On Thanksgiving; Thanks Giving

This is the week, and this is the day, this is the time, and this is the record of the time, that celebrates that most un-American of quintessentially American holidays (with the possible exception of the annual Jesus-Free Christmas Consumer-Off), which is to say, this is the holy day that we call Thanksgiving.

Now, friends, please understand, I love Thanksgiving.
I love its benighted mythology.
I love gourds and cranberry sauce.
I love turkey meat and pumpkin meat in pumpkin pie.
I love gratitude and anatomically-impossible, construction paper, hand-tracings of turkeys, misproduced and reproduced by American school children across this great land, to, accidentally, but nonetheless, implicitly, celebrate the glorious ascendance of Corporate Megaloagriculture over the lowly traditional farmer and the hateful zero-profit tyranny of the traditional genome. 

Thanksgiving is the least American of American holy days (again, with the very possible exception of Christmas, which lags in patriotism due to its European--arguably Mediterranean and Semitic, which is to say Jewish--roots; but American Christmas more than makes up for that easily forgotten awkwardness by its spectacular recuperation--no, let us say conversion--of the birth of the all-saving God-made-Man into the exact opposite of the exaltation of the spirit and of humility, charity, hope, joy, community, and real pleasure in one another: into the cynical parody of ethics we call Santa Claus, which is already the most cynical parody-in-miniature of that lame play-good-for-the-afterlife-reward mentality cooked up in Heaven using the fires of Hell. Well. Hell. Look at that amazingly long parenthetical digression. I do apologize for that, but nonetheless) Thanksgiving is the least American of quintessentially American holy days because it seeks to valorize--despite (or, perhaps, probably, because of) the manifold, endless, Pollyanna lies it files against history--gratitude, community, coöperation, safety from overweening persecution, acceptance of the inscrutable ethnic other, labor, sharing, and peace, no matter how short-lived or fictional. It is the least American of American holy days because, for once we, as America, as Americans, are not supposed to be about the all-sacred individual (which is the only thing more sacred in America than any trinity), and for a few minutes we are not supposed to be about trying to become Oprah Winfrey or Rush Limbaugh or Bill Clinton or Ayn Rand or Tyra Banks or Sarah Palin or Donald Trump or Paris Hilton or Michael Bloomburg or trying to fulfill the Warholian curse to be famous for fifteen minutes. 

For once, once a year, we are required to feel grateful. But gratitude is a long, inward journey, and we Americans are very impatient with the words "journey," "long," and "inward." We are faced with the injunction to feel grateful for something, for anything, but we are a busy people, harried by instant messaging, instant results, instant approval, and instant gratification, and, without having taken the time to make that trek into the questions of who we are or what is really important, we ask with some, perhaps, "honest"-seeming confusion: "For what?"

30 September 2013

It's Banned Books Week (late)

Thanks to the Zinn Education Project for the image.
It's Banned Books Week!

The last week of September is set aside to celebrate the proud and diverse traditions of American censorship; to honor the shining example of ignorance and anti-intellectualism winning over education, engaged thought, and thinking for oneself; and to remember those brave heroes on the front lines of history who thought better of reading a book and decided rather to burn it.

At the end of the day--or even at the end of days--burning a book is ultimately a display of selfless generosity toward one's beautiful mind that is also richly inclusive of future generations, just by ensuring no one will ever see the words written therein. For, yes, friends, it is always better to cultivate a calmed simplicity in the public discourse by eliminating the difficult or complicated bits with force and fire and law, which gets rid of troublesome notions along with any possible conversation, scholarship, or account of them, productive or not.

In the name of purity and undisturbed homogeneity, consistency and peace of mind, we must excise the blemish of the diseased thought, quarantine and destroy its infection, and protect our children and our children's children from the dangers of difference and thinking. Happy Banned Books Week, everyone! :)

Behold! Six ideas to celebrate in your school: http://bit.ly/1gXOfzG

04 September 2013

Labor Day: On the Death of the American Economy

On September 6, 1936, the day before Labor Day, President Roosevelt addressed the country in one of his fireside chats:
[Workers] deserve practical protection in the opportunity to use their labor at a return adequate to support them at a decent and constantly rising standard of living, and to accumulate a margin of security against the inevitable vicissitudes of life.... The Fourth of July commemorates our political freedom -- a freedom which without economic freedom is meaningless indeed. Labor Day symbolizes our determination to achieve an economic freedom for the average man which will give his political freedom reality.
At a time when our nation's elected office holders (one is loathe to call them "representatives" or "officials") prefer to punish the electorate--not to mention their children and dependents or the nation's very economy itself--by "sequestering" public funds in an extraordinary demonstration of bad faith and political oneupmanship, which is only part of a much larger abdication of civic duty and public interest, this Rooseveltian example from an earlier time not only confirms that we have indeed fallen but begins to suggest how far. 

It is an unspeakable idiocy that those in possession of government office do not comprehend (or perhaps care) that unemployed individuals, who are denied unemployment insurance benefits, are former and potential consumers no longer contributing to the economy or the collection of income taxes, because these "benefits" are understood, after all, as taxable income.

The distinction between "benefits" and "taxable income," in this case, is far from meaningless and verging on the perverse; moreover, to give it another turn of the screw, most unemployed individuals, having been employed taxpaying individuals in the past, have in some sense--and a very real sense indeed--funded the benefits they are--or are no longer--receiving. The unemployed individual is then taxed on this income that is the outcome of his tax burden, in an ever-dwindling eternal return of taxation on taxed income renamed as "benefits." The term "benefits" here is a perjoration suggestive of something wholly unearned--and which is distributed parsimoniously and rebukingly as if it were a handout--which is manifestly not the case. This is only scratching the surface of the nearly systematic dismantling of the American economy by deregulation, the coddling of the financial sector, the movement of jobs overseas, and the abjection of the American consumer. A healthy economy requires consumers to purchase goods and services which allow businesses to stay open and employ individuals who are themselves consumers and taxpayers. Now, re-read the quote from FDR.
[Workers] deserve practical protection in the opportunity to use their labor at a return adequate to support them at a decent and constantly rising standard of living, and to accumulate a margin of security against the inevitable vicissitudes of life.... The Fourth of July commemorates our political freedom -- a freedom which without economic freedom is meaningless indeed. Labor Day symbolizes our determination to achieve an economic freedom for the average man which will give his political freedom reality.
Happy late Labor Day, everyone.

14 June 2013

A Rilke Post: Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes.

Orpheus, Eurydike und Hermes, Camilla Nägler, watercolor

Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes.
Rainer Maria Rilke, New Poems, the First Part [1907]

That was the queer mine of souls.
Like silent silver ore they went
like veins through its darkness. Between roots
rose the blood that went away to men,
and it looked hard as porphyry in the darkness.
Otherwise nothing was red.

Cliffs were there
and unreal woods. Bridges over voids
and that great, gray, blind pool,
that hung over its far-off ground
like rain-sky over a landscape.
And between meadows, gentle and patience-filled,
appeared the pale strip of a path,
like a long bleaching laid down.
And on this single path they came.

Out ahead the slender man in the blue mantel,
who dumbly and impatiently looked out ahead.
Without chewing, his pace devoured the path
in great bites; his hands hung
heavy and restrained from the fall of folds
and knew no more of the light lyre,
which had grown into the left
like rose tendrils in the branch of an olive tree.
And his senses were as in two:

whereas his sight ran ahead of him like a dog,
turned around, came and again always distant
and waiting stood at the next turn,--
his hearing remained behind like a smell.
Sometimes it seemed to him as though it reached
back to the tread of those two others,
who should have been following for this entire climb.
Then again it was only his climbing’s echo
and his mantel’s wind that were behind him.
Yet he said to himself, they still came;
said it loud and heard it resound.
They still came, except the two were
walking with terrible lightness. If he might
turn around (were that backward glance
not the disintegration of this whole work,
that would soon be achieved), he would have to see them,
the two light ones, who silently followed him:

The god of passage and the remote message,
travel hood over fiery eyes,
the slender staff held out before his body,
and wingflapping at his ankle joints;
and given to his left hand: she.

The so-beloved one, that from a single lyre
more lamentation came than ever from wailing women;
in which a world of lamentation was, in which
everything there was was once again: wood and vale
and road and village, field and river and beast;
and that around this lament-world, just as
around the other earth, a sun
and a starry still heaven went,
a lament-heaven with disfigured stars--:
this one so loved.

But she walked at that god's hand,
her step restrained by long burial strips,
unsure, soft, and without impatience.
She was inside herself, as one far along in expecting,
and thought not of the man who went ahead,
and not of the path that climbed into life.
She was inside herself. And her being dead
fulfilled her like fullness.
Like a fruit made of sweetness and darkness,
she was thus entirely of her great death,
which was so new, that she understood nothing.

She was in a new maidenhood
and untouchable; her sex was shut
like a young flower against the evening,
and her hands were so completely
weaned from marriage, that even the light god's
infinitely imperceptible, leading touch
offended her like too much intimacy.

She was already no longer this blonde wife,
who in the songs of the poet often rang,
no longer the fragrance of the broad bed and island
and that man's possession no longer.

She was already untied like long hair
and given up like fallen rain
and given out like hundredfold resources.

She was already root.

And then suddenly surprisingly
the god stopped her and with pain in his announcement
spoke the words: He has turned around--,
she understood nothing and said softly: Who?

But far off, dark before the clear exit,
possibly stood someone, whose countenance
could not be detected. He stood and saw
how on the strip of the meadow path
with sorrowful look the god of the message
silently turned around, to follow the form
that already went back by that same path,
its step limited by long burial strips,
unsure, soft, and without impatience.

november 2001
translation by L. Steve Schmersal

Orpheus. Eurydike. Hermes.
Rainer Maria Rilke, Neue Gedichte. Erster Teil b) [1907]

Das war der Seelen wunderliches Bergwerk.
Wie stille Silbererze gingen sie
als Adern durch sein Dunkel. Zwischen Wurzeln
entsprang das Blut, das fortgeht zu den Menschen,
und schwer wie Porphyr sah es aus im Dunkel.
Sonst war nichts Rotes.

Felsen waren da
und wesenlose Wälder. Brücken über Leeres
und jener große graue blinde Teich,
der über seinem fernen Grunde hing
wie Regenhimmel über einer Landschaft.
Und zwischen Wiesen, sanft und voller Langmut,
erschien des einen Weges blasser Streifen,
wie eine lange Bleiche hingelegt.

Und dieses einen Weges kamen sie.

Voran der schlanke Mann im blauen Mantel,
der stumm und ungeduldig vor sich aussah.
Ohne zu kauen fraß sein Schritt den Weg
in großen Bissen; seine Hände hingen
schwer und verschlossen aus dem Fall der Falten
und wußten nicht mehr von der leichten Leier,
die in die Linke eingewachsen war
wie Rosenranken in den Ast des Ölbaums.
Und seine Sinne waren wie entzweit:
indes der Blick ihm wie ein Hund vorauslief,
umkehrte, kam und immer wieder weit
und wartend an der nächsten Wendung stand, -
blieb sein Gehör wie ein Geruch zurück.
Manchmal erschien es ihm als reichte es
bis an das Gehen jener beiden andern,
die folgen sollten diesen ganzen Aufstieg.
Dann wieder wars nur seines Steigens Nachklang
und seines Mantels Wind was hinter ihm war.
Er aber sagte sich, sie kämen doch;
sagte es laut und hörte sich verhallen.
Sie kämen doch, nur wärens zwei
die furchtbar leise gingen. Dürfte er
sich einmal wenden (wäre das Zurückschaun
nicht die Zersetzung dieses ganzen Werkes,
das erst vollbracht wird), müßte er sie sehen,
die beiden Leisen, die ihm schweigend nachgehn:

Den Gott des Ganges und der weiten Botschaft,
die Reisehaube über hellen Augen,
den schlanken Stab hertragend vor dem Leibe
und flügelschlagend an den Fußgelenken;
und seiner linken Hand gegeben: sie.

Die So-geliebte, daß aus einer Leier
mehr Klage kam als je aus Klagefrauen;
daß eine Welt aus Klage ward, in der
alles noch einmal da war: Wald und Tal
und Weg und Ortschaft, Feld und Fluß und Tier;
und daß um diese Klage-Welt, ganz so
wie um die andre Erde, eine Sonne
und ein gestirnter stiller Himmel ging,
ein Klage-Himmel mit entstellten Sternen - :
Diese So-geliebte.

Sie aber ging an jenes Gottes Hand,
den Schrittbeschränkt von langen Leichenbändern,
unsicher, sanft und ohne Ungeduld.
Sie war in sich, wie Eine hoher Hoffnung,
und dachte nicht des Mannes, der voranging,
und nicht des Weges, der ins Leben aufstieg.
Sie war in sich. Und ihr Gestorbensein
erfüllte sie wie Fülle.
Wie eine Frucht von Süßigkeit und Dunkel,
so war sie voll von ihrem großen Tode,
der also neu war, daß sie nichts begriff.

Sie war in einem neuen Mädchentum
und unberührbar; ihr Geschlecht war zu
wie eine junge Blume gegen Abend,
und ihre Hände waren der Vermählung
so sehr entwöhnt, daß selbst des leichten Gottes
unendlich leise, leitende Berührung
sie kränkte wie zu sehr Vertraulichkeit.

Sie war schon nicht mehr diese blonde Frau,
die in des Dichters Liedern manchmal anklang,
nicht mehr des breiten Bettes Duft und Eiland
und jenes Mannes Eigentum nicht mehr.

Sie war schon aufgelöst wie langes Haar
und hingegeben wie gefallner Regen
und ausgeteilt wie hundertfacher Vorrat.

Sie war schon Wurzel.

Und als plötzlich jäh
der Gott sie anhielt und mit Schmerz im Ausruf
die Worte sprach: Er hat sich umgewendet -,
begriff sie nichts und sagte leise: Wer?

Fern aber, dunkel vor dem klaren Ausgang,
stand irgend jemand, dessen Angesicht
nicht zu erkennen war. Er stand und sah,
wie auf dem Streifen eines Wiesenpfades
mit trauervollem Blick der Gott der Botschaft
sich schweigend wandte, der Gestalt zu folgen,
die schon zurückging dieses selben Weges,
den Schritt beschränkt von langen Leichenbändern,
unsicher, sanft und ohne Ungeduld.

07 June 2013

On Deconstruction and Psychoanalysis

Is it indisputable that psychoanalysis is indispensable to deconstruction. I frame this as a statement in the form of a question, or rather a question in the form of a statement. Even if it is not true. Is deconstruction indispensable to psychoanalysis. 

In reading The Factor/Postman/Purveyor of Truth, it becomes possible to regard this inimitable dissection-discussion on letters, circulation, address, addresses and trajectories, dead letter offices, the letter or the lack in its, or not in its place; or, most uncredible to Derrida, having a place, a discourse we refuse to not call indispensable, as much as we refuse to not call it Derridean, it becomes possible to wonder if the notion of not being able to tell it all, of knowledges that only touch at points, or a point, or no point at all, intervenes here to raise a question. And we might well wonder, perhaps too late, how The Postman of Truth and The Postcard--two indubitably deconstructive discourses on psychoanalysis--relate in ways heretofore not discussed, in reading them one may well wonder how the discourse of deconstruction may well not be indispensable to psychoanalysis, though the converse is true, even though deconstruction remains itself indispensable. How is it possible to discuss the unreadable mark on the mind, the subject we suppose because--though we never see it--we detect its spoor, within Derrida's enormously and enjoyably clever and careful terms, without losing Lacan's very "point de vue" and the points at which his psychoanalytic discourse very much agrees with Derrida and his creation, deconstruction? And at last we have arrived at a question. Which may, to that point be utterly useless for being, by being, utterly not possible, and yet, yes yet, still, being unquestionably indispensable. 

10 May 2013

Is Being Straight a Choice?

Is Being Straight a Choice?

Watching these straight people react to being asked a question that gay people have been asked forever is pretty delightful. If only more people were this empathetic and understanding...

Although the turnabout is fair play and productive, I have always felt that this is the wrong question. And it begins with the problem that it shouldn't matter whether one can literally choose one's object of desire or not. If I could somehow choose whom I desire or whom I love, would that authorize and legitimate the impingement of my human or civil rights? Romeo and Juliet answered this question when Elizabeth the First was still (and remained) the Virgin Queen of England, using the unending supply of gentleman callers cum foreign royal suitors as a tool of diplomacy. This question is a question suitable only for children.

09 May 2013

On Fathers 1

The Father is a structure; the Mother is a ground.

Imposed, as it were, from the outside, He is a scaffold in which a statue is being built in the image of another statue, a statute, the Law. And the Law is always the Law of No.

He is both a foundational structure and a boundary, a territory, and in this way His latticework is also a cage, a place in which you may climb up, but only so far and no further. In this way, He is a challenge and a test; a question and an answer; an answer to be questioned.